The Real Message We Need to Take from the Death of San Francisco’s Mayor at 65

Heart health

By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder

San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee died earlier today from a heart attack. He was the 43rd mayor of the city and first Asian-American to hold this position. Lee was grocery shopping in his neighborhood store when he suffered the attack, and he died later at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. He was just 65-years-old and is survived by his wife and two daughters.

Heart disease is reportedly the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that nearly 800,000 Americans have a heart attack every year.

And according to the American Heart Association (AHA), every 40 seconds someone in the United States has a heart attack.

Symptoms of a heart attack may include shortness of breath, chest pain, nausea and sudden dizziness. But what is particularly scary is that you can have a heart attack and not even know it. One out of five heart attacks is silent, and you may not even be aware you have had it.

Heart attacks may occur when blood flow that brings oxygen to the heart muscle is severely reduced or completely cut off. This usually happens when the arteries that supply the heart muscle with blood flow become narrow from a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances that together are called plaque. This buildup of plaque may occur over a period of many years.

The risk factors for heart disease are very well documented. These include age, family history, poor eating habits, not exercising enough, smoking and alcohol and substance abuse. The more important issue to be addressed is how we can be proactive about this disease.   

Physical appearance may not necessarily indicate whether you have a healthy heart. Mayor Lee appeared to be a fairly healthy 65-year-old man.

And in a very extreme example of physical appearance not being an indicator of heart health, take a look at celebrity trainer and fitness guru Bob Harper. He had a heart attack and survived. He attributed his attack to genetics (his mom died from a heart attack).

The good news is you can get preventative screenings and tests done even before symptoms for heart disease emerge. This allows you to work with a knowledgeable healthcare professional to decrease your risk.

Ask your doctor about blood tests that check your cardiovascular health, including inflammation, lipid deposits, endothelial dysfunction, clotting factors and more.  

I also underwent, and highly recommend, whole genome sequencing. My test results say my risk of heart attack is “moderate high.” The good news is I can be proactive and do something about my moderate high risk for heart attack, including getting appropriate physical activity, eating a healthy diet with plenty of antioxidant-rich, anti-inflammatory fruits and vegetables. Fish may also be a good addition to the diet when it comes to heart health.

And keep in mind, there are certain minerals that are critical for maintaining a healthy heart.

  • Magnesium & Calcium. These minerals’ importance for the heart can’t be overstated, and they work together hand-in-hand. Magnesium influences heart muscle energy production, keeps calcium levels balanced, loosens up tight blood vessels, reduces inflammation and keeps the electrical activity in the heart behaving properly. Think of calcium as “Fire” and magnesium as “Hold your fire!” in the heart. Low magnesium has actually been found to lead to worse outcomes in patients with heart disease and higher risk of irregular heartbeat. Magnesium is also widely regarded for its muscle-relaxing properties, which may help people with high blood pressure. Low calcium levels can also cause electrical abnormalities in the heart. To find out which foods contain magnesium and how much you need, click here. For information on calcium, click here.
  • Sodium & Potassium. High blood pressure increases your risk for heart disease. And if you have high blood pressure, your doctor has probably told you to cut back on salty foods. Reducing your sodium intake can help lower high blood pressure. What your doctor may not have told you is that a good balance of sodium and potassium can also help to reduce blood pressure. Studies show that the sodium/potassium ratio intake should be less than 1. Unfortunately, only 12 percent of the U.S. population has this adequate ratio. The American Heart Association recommends a maximum daily intake of 1,500 mg of sodium, but in reality 99.8 percent of the population consumes much more. Avoid processed foods, which tend to have alarming amounts of sodium per serving. For more information on how to get potassium in your daily diet, read here.

It is also extremely important to determine whether you are absorbing adequate amounts of these minerals (nutrients) from the foods you eat. Nutrient deficiencies may prevent you from keeping your heart in the healthiest state possible. And one of the best ways to determine whether you have nutrient deficiency is to obtain a nutritional test.

Finally, speak with your doctor about any medications you are taking, as these may deplete vital nutrients necessary to keep your heart in good shape.

Remember, serious heart disease generally develops over a period of years. This means you can be proactive about making the necessary changes before it is too late.

Enjoy your healthy life!

The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of healthcare and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.


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